4. College Football News Preview 2020: Penn State Nittany Lions Defense 3 Things To Know
– The defense that allowed 347 yards per game only gave up 16 points per outing and led the Big Ten against the run. The pass rush was suffocating, it was one of the best defenses in the country at coming up with tackles for loss, it allowed fewer than 14 points eight times, and it got the job done with a veteran group that dominated at times. And now there’s a bit of a problem.
Nine of the top ten tacklers are gone.
– Fortunately, leading tackler and future NFL star Micah Parsons is back at one outside linebacker spot. He’s an all-around terror who made 83 stops and lived behind the line, but he’ll need help.
Ellis Brooks is a 236-pound senior who made 30 tackles in the rotation – he can handle the inside – and 6-3, 240-pound Brandon Smith is a former superstar recruit who’ll likely get one of the other outside jobs.
6-4, 305-pound junior PJ Mustipher and 6-2, 315-pound senior Antonio Shelton will be fine at tackle, but replacing the pass rushing production of Yetur Gross-Matos, Shareef Miller and Robert Windsor will be a problem. Shaka Toney is fine at one end – the senior came up with five sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss – but the pressure is on junior Jayson Oweh to rise up on the other side.
– The secondary has talent, and it’s going to be better than 13th in the Big Ten in pass defense. To be fair, the Nittany Lions often gave up a ton of yards because teams bombed away to try keeping up the pace, and there weren’t a whole lot of big things happening down the field – for the most part.
S Lamont Wade and CB Tariq Castro-Fields will be all-stars, but there will be fights for the other spots. Out of the 13 interceptions, only one accounted for is back, and that lone pick came from LB Ellis Brooks.